Image courtesy of NASA.

NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) collected natural-color images from Central Africa and Indochina, where farmers prepare their land for seasonal planting by deliberately setting fire. Fire is used to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground in these parts of the world. Although it helps enhance the crops, it produces smoke that plays a significant role in the seasonal air pollution, as it degrades the air quality.

The hotspots which appear as red marks are the areas where the thermal detectors on the VIIRS instrument recognized temperatures higher than background. If they are accompanied by smoke, they are diagnosed as fire. Actively burning areas are outlined in red. 

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Publishing Date: 02/02/2017
Agricultural fires near the Niger River delta. Courtesy of NASA.

Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, United States, have been investigating the connection between wild fires and droughts in sub-Saharan Africa using satellite data from NASA’s NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission. A comparative analysis of soil moisture, precipitation, evapotranspiration and vegetation greenness; and the examination of the interaction of clouds and smoke led researchers to identify that extreme burning during the dry season decreases soil moisture, evaporation and vegetation greenness, which in turn decrease the amount of rainfall in the following season.  The reduction in rainfall can also be attributed to the conversion of forests and wetlands intro croplands, as such a conversion reduces the capacity of the soil to store moisture; which is turned into moisture in the atmosphere that is eventually transformed into rain.


Publishing Date: 10/01/2017
UN-SPIDER Expert's presentation

The partners of the EvIDENz project conducted the stakeholder workshop entitled “Earth observation-based information products for drought risk on a national basis”.  The workshop was conducted in East London, South Africa, from 2 to 3 November 2016.    Partners involved in the organization of the workshop included DiMTEC of the University of the Free State (UFS), the Remote Sensing Center (ZFL) of the University of Bonn, UNU-EHS, and UN-SPIDER.

The EvIDENz project targets drought, as it is the major and most common natural disaster in South Africa, affecting hundreds of people and leaving considerable economical loss every year.  The goal of the EviDENz project is to develop innovative methods and appropriate means of communication to allow Earth observation-based information provision to meet the goals established in conventions and frameworks, targets and indicators as well as the stakeholders’ needs at national levels. 

The workshop was attended by 20 regional and... read more

Publishing Date: 05/11/2016
First African Drought Conference in Namibia
The First African Drought Conference conducted in Windhoek, Namibia, from 14 to 18 August 2016 shed the spotlight on the necessity for Africa to incorporate high on its development agenda a “Strategic Framework for Drought Risk Management and Enhancing Resilience in Africa”. Such a framework would allow this continent to enhance its drought resilience and to be better prepared to confront such droughts. For more information on this framework, please click here.
The UN-SPIDER programme of UNOOSA took the opportunity to make a presentation on the efforts it is conducting to enhance the use of Earth observation in drought early warning efforts during the Technical segment "Drought Monitoring and Early Warning Systems".  The presentation highlighted the view that... read more
Publishing Date: 25/08/2016

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia, in collaboration with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) are conducting in Windhoek, Namibia, the conference entitled “Enhancing resilience to drought events on the African Continent”.  The conference is being conducted from 15 to 19 August 2016 and was opened by the Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia, Honorable Ms. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.

The goal of the Conference is to identify the needs of African countries towards drought mitigation. It plans to create a strategic framework for African countries regarding drought events by reducing poverty, enhancing economic development and improving environmental as well as human well-being at the continental scale.  This conference stands on Namibia’s role as President of the UNCCD COP11 and follows its role the high-level meeting on national drought policies (HMNDP) which took place in Geneva in... read more

Publishing Date: 16/08/2016
Aerosol Index, Sahara dust. Image courtesy of Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory, using Suomi NPP OMPS data provided courtesy of Colin Seftor (SSAI)

In mid-June, plumes of dust, coming for northern Africa’s desert, reached the north of Europe.

This phenomenon of dusty-wind has different impacts on other continents, helping fertilizing soils in Latin America, adding sand to the Caribbean beaches or affecting the air quality in Europe,

The Suomi NPP satellite from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) caught a series of space-based pictures showing the evolution of the plumes of dust with the aerosol index. The Barcelona Dust Forecast Center confirmed that the dust would reach the Canary Islands in 22 of June. 

Publishing Date: 29/06/2016
Mapping floods in Nigeria using Sentinel-1 satellite images (Image: International Water Institute).

Due to heavy seasonal rain falls within the last months, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone have been affected by floods. Overall more than 300,000 people have been impacted and 39 casualties reported. 

Since August 30, approximately 206,000 people in Nigeria have been affected by floods in Adamawa State. The floods were triggered by spillage due to damage at the Dadin Kowa dam in Gombe State, which in turn caused an overflow at Kiri Dam located downstream in Adamawa State. Further heavy rainfall worsened the flooding. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been responsible for the response, humanitarian partners conducted rapid assessments in five Local Government Areas focusing on shelter, food security, sanitation, health and education. 

Since the beginning of the rainy season in June, floods and strong winds affected eight regions of Burkina Faso. Numbers for September counted eight casualties, 54 people wounded and further 28,781 people... read more

Publishing Date: 26/10/2015
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Prof. Judi Wakhungu shared her experience with the project at this year's MESA Forum in Nairobi (Image: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung).

In this year’s Forum of the Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) from 31st August – 4th September 2015 in Kenya, participants discussed the use of Earth Observation data for policy, planning and decision making processes in Africa, provided by the MESA project. 

The Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace highlighted that MESA incorporates a variety of stakeholders, such as African decision-makers, experts, service providers and the user community, which enables comprehensive communication and interaction in different fields of expertise.  

Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Regional Development Authority of the Republic of Kenya explained her experience with MESA: "Before this, my office and team members had to travel physically to protected areas which took several days and incurred huge costs. Thanks to the MESA... read more

Publishing Date: 15/10/2015
Group photo of the workshop's participants (Image: RCMRD)

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), UN-SPIDER’s Regional Support Office, held a workshop on Vulnerability Mapping in conjunction with USAID/East Africa’s Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research and Economic Development (PREPARED) Project between August 10 and 14 in Entebbe, Uganda. The participants came from the East African Community (EAC) member states: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.

During the training, participants were able to learn how to create regional risk maps, identify each country’s least and most vulnerable zones and infer the factors behind the mapping results. These vulnerability hotspot maps offer information about climate change effects in order to develop and support adaptation plans for communities, governments, and landscapes.

PREPARED has been actively collaborating with the East African Community Climate Change Technical Working Group and RCMRD is an implementing... read more

Publishing Date: 18/08/2015
Satellite image of an isolated settlement in Kano, Nigeria (Image: DigitalGlobe)

A joint project between DigitalGlobe and many volunteers has helped in the eradication of polio through mapping of villages in developing countries during vaccination campaigns. The mapping of the often isolated settlements was complicated and apart from analysing big data captured by satellites, DigitalGlobe had to rely on volunteers and crowdsourcing based on the Tomnod programme. The final result is a map covering 285,103 villages in Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

These maps are used to ensure that vaccination campaigns have the required data to search for everyone who needs to be immunized against the illness and know the amount of medical doses and human staff that ought to be sent. In the past two months polio was finally eliminated from the whole African continent after it disappeared from Nigeria and Somalia. Only two countries remain with the presence of this disease: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

DigitalGlobe is involved in the delivery of satellite... read more

Publishing Date: 17/08/2015
Participants in the 7th Africa Working Group Meeting (Image: UNISDR)

The 7th Africa Working Group Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction that was celebrated from 21 to 22 July, followed by the 4th High Level Meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction on 23 July, has been the starting point for the implementation the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in Africa.

Representatives from the majority of African countries, the African Union, Africa’s Regional Economic Communities and a host of other international organizations have sat together for three days of talks in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The aim of this meeting was to compare the existing disaster risk reduction programmes in Africa with the Sendai Framework and try to narrow the gap between them.

“We are now at a stage where our efforts are concentrating on paving the road for effective implementation of the Sendai Framework on the continent in the next 15 years. This is the only way that Africa will be able to curb the ever-increasing disaster risk and associated consequences, which claimed... read more

Publishing Date: 23/07/2015
Extract from ALSAT-2A image of Benabdelmalek Ramdane in Mostaganem Province, Algeria (Image: ASAL)

ALSAT-2A, the optical Earth observation satellite of the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), Regional Support Office of UN-SPIDER, reached five years in orbit on July 12.

After these successful five years, it will continue developing observation activities, providing panchromatic images with 2,5m resolution and multispectral images with 10m resolution.

Since the launch of ALSAT-2A in 2010 on a PSLV launcher (PSLV-C15) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, India, the satellite has provided more than 120,000 Earth observation images, covering a total of more than 8 493 millions km2. The coverage over Algeria represents almost the 50% of the totality and the whole African continent reaches 73,5%.

Early warning, disaster management and emergency response have been some of the most important activities developed by ALSAT-2A during these five years. 

Publishing Date: 22/07/2015
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Representatives of 12 institutions together to support NSDI (Image: RCMRD)

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), UN-SPIDER’s Regional Support Office, conducted a flood forecasting training in Uganda from 7 to 10 July and a technical training to support the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in Zambia from 8 to 11 July.

During the flood forecasting training in Uganda, RCMRD collaborated with the Directorate of Water Resource Management from the Ministry of Water and Environment of Uganda and other stakeholders to develop and implement CREST (Coupled Routing and Excess Storage) in different areas in Uganda with the support of the SERVIR program.

The workshop addressed issues concerning requirements and implementation of the CREST model and how to empower stakeholders.

The technical training conducted in Zambia to support the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), brought together representatives of 12 institutions including government ministries and departments, parastatals and academic... read more

Publishing Date: 22/07/2015
Artistic representation of the Meteosat Third Generation (Image: ESA)

Arianespace will be in charge of the first launch services for the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) series of geostationary satellites after the signature of a contract with EUMETSAT.

The agreement has been signed few days following the successful launch of MSG-4. It has fixed the launches of MTG-I1 and MTG-S1 and proposed the option of MTG-I2 for the time period 2019-2023.

Arianespace will use the Ariane 5 ECA launchers placed in the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to set into space the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program.  It will significantly improve the services of forecasting high impact weather over Europe and Africa, currently delivered by the Meteosat Second Generation series.

The MTG satellites, developed in cooperation between EUMETSAT and the European Space Agency (ESA), will represent the highest level of complexity and innovation existing among the operational... read more

Publishing Date: 21/07/2015
The Niger delta (Image:ESA)

Nigeria plans to develop, manufacture and launch its own satellite by 2030, according to Dr. Spencer Onu, the Center for Satellite Technology Development’s (CSTD) Director. He also added that the components needed for building the space artifact are presently being developed.

However, he also admitted that Nigeria still suffers from shortages in the application of space technology, specifically from the lack of space education in the country’s academic curricula: “Only Nigerian university has aerospace engineering—their program has been approved by the Council but has not yet started. Kogi State Polytechnic also had its own approved curriculum, but that department is yet to be initiated.”

Professor Mohammed Sheidu, the Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), is confident in Nigeria’s capacity to build the satellite: “The Center's engineers and scientists have demonstrated their capability by solely designing and manufacturing the... read more

Publishing Date: 29/06/2015
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Group photo of the workshop's participants (Image: RCMRD)

On Thursday June 4th a one-day workshop on the “Use of Modis Data for Early Warning, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Environmental Monitoring” was held in Kasarani (Nairobi) by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Office in Kenya.

The stakeholders workshop’s aims were the following ones:

  • The creation awareness of the data streams received and products generated through the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) antennae;
  • The demonstration of the role of near real-time data synthesis and product dissemination;
  • Focus on a product on near real-time fire detection; dissemination of the service; crop and pasture; and flood forecasting.

This workshop is the result of a project between RCMRD and Google Foundation, SERVIR Africa, NASA and USAID in order to procure, install, and build capacity for MODIS direct... read more

Publishing Date: 10/06/2015
Approximately 30 experts participated in the workshop and training (Image: IWMI)

UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Office in Sri Lanka, the International Water Management Institute IWMI, conducted a training on "Earth Observation Technologies for Flood-risk Mapping and Forecast Rating Curve for Flood Recession Agriculture in Nigeria". At the same occasion, the participants were briefed on the findings of a recent research project on "Turning tragedy into an opportunity: water management solutions for flood recession and dry season agriculture in Nigeria” supported by Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). The workshop and training took place from 5 to 7 May 2015 and were organized jointly by IWMI, FMARD and UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Office in Nigeria, NASRDA.

Approximately 30 experts participated in the event and were trained on the use of space technology for flood risk reduction from FMARD, NiMET, NIHSA, NASRDA and academic institutes.

Publishing Date: 27/05/2015
Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden from the International Space Station (Image: NASA)

In recent years, many African countries have started using the potential and usefulness of space technology more and more, as an article in The Conversation points out. In sub-Saharan Africa, these are mostly Nigeria and South Africa.

Nigeria used Earth observation satellites in the past to monitor its oil-rich areas, elections or to fight against extremist groups such as Boko Haram. The largest Space Agency in Southern Africa (SANSA) frequently provides disaster monitoring and post-disaster assessment for South Africa and the region: fires and floods are the most common natural disaster. It also monitors space weather effects and forecasts, which are crucial for aviation.

Now other growing African countries want to join the advantages and possibilities of earth observation too. Growing sub-Saharan African countries have recently begun space programmes. For example... read more

Publishing Date: 12/05/2015
All african countries are covered in the first complete satellite imagery base map of the continent. (Image: NASA)

DigitalGlobe announced on 28 April 28 the first complete and consistent high resolution satellite imagery base map for Africa. The map is unique through its high level of detail: a 50 cm ground resolution for all countries in Africa. It is the first map that covers the whole continent and not only small areas of interest.

According to DigitalGlobe, whether zoomed out to view an entire country, or zoomed in all the way down to view local vegetation, dwellings, and infrastructure, the imagery looks the way a user expects the Earth’s surface to look. This uniformity helps local governments or global development agencies to build out maps and value-added information layers such as road vectors or population polygons for the people they serve. Also for web-enabled mapping platforms and location-based applications, users will stay immersed in their experience and not... read more

Publishing Date: 28/04/2015
Image of Aïn Témouchent province captured by Alsat-2A on 12 March 2015 (Image: ASAL)

Through satellite-bases research, the Algerian Space Agency ASAL has found a positive vegetation recovering of the forest areas located in the Aïn Témouchent province after the damages caused by wildfires in 2014.

The forest fires of summer 2014 devastated around 180 hectares, with Beni Ghenam being the most affected region, as Algérie1 reported. The main cause of the fires was human negligent behaviour while visiting the forests.

The analysis and comparison of images compiled by the Alsat-2A satellite in August 2014 and March 2015 has shown a growing chlorophyll activity related to the increase of vegetation along the burned areas.

This result helps to better understand the process of forest recovery after wildfires by assessing the presence of green biomass. 

ASAL also hosts UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Office in Algeria.

... read more
Publishing Date: 17/04/2015
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Flooding in Tanzania in 2010 (Image: NASA)

Tanzania will create a new agency for emergency response and disaster risk reduction, both for man-made disasters and disasters triggered by natural hazards. The Tanzanian Parliament has passed an according law establishing the agency.

Reuters reported: "The Disaster Management Agency (DMA) will oversee efforts to prevent damage and deal with the impacts of floods, drought, hail, storms and hunger, as well as managing the stocking of supplies to aid effective response."

Jenister Mhagama, a Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office responsible for policy coordination, said: “We would have in place efficient early warning systems at regional and district levels so that local authorities can prepare for and respond to disasters timely and effectively.”

Tanzania is frequently affected by floods, droughts and tropical storms.

Publishing Date: 08/04/2015
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, captured by the Proba-V satellite in January 2015 (Image: ESA/VITO)

South Africa will launch an Earth observation satellite in 2019, as the head of the South African National Space Agency Sansa, Sandile Malinge, announced to a newspaper.

In doing so, South Africa would like to have their own data readily available instead of relying on international satellites. According to the newspaper Mail & Guardian, Sansa buys Spot-6 and Spot-7 data – used by entities such as the departments of human settlements, agriculture, forestry and fisheries and Statistics South Africa – for about R35 million a year - that is almost 3 million USD.

The new satellite, EO-Sat1, will be part of the African Resource Management Constellation, a network of African nations that plan on launching a common Earth observation satellite system. South Africa committed to contributing at least one satellite to the constellation in 2009.

Publishing Date: 07/04/2015

Advisory Support

UN-SPIDER and its team of experts carried out a Technical Advisory Mission (TAM) to Zambia from 26 to 30 May 2014. The TAM was conducted upon invitation of the Office of the Vice-President, Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU).

Mission dates: 26/05/2014 to 30/05/2014

Regional Support Office

The UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office (RSO) in Algeria is hosted by the Algerian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Algerienne, ASAL). It was established during the third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development on 7 December 2009 in Algiers.

This RSO, which covers both North Africa and the Sahel region, was established as a part of the Central Agency for Civil Protection. In case of an emergency, it will liaise between the end-users of space-based information and the Algerian Space Agency, which will act as a value-adder to space-derived data.

The Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed a cooperation agreement on the occasion of the UN-SPIDER Regional Workshop – “Building Upon Regional Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management and Emergency Response for Africa” in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, 7 July 2010.

This makes RCMRD the ninth member of the network of Regional Support Offices which support the implementation of the activities of the UN-SPIDER programme in their respective regions in a coordinated manner by taking advantage of the expertise and capabilities being offered.

(RCMRD) was established in Nairobi, Kenya in 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the then Organization of African Unity, today African Union. It is an inter-governmental organization and currently has 15 contracting Member States in the Eastern and Southern Africa Regions namely; Botswana, Comoros... read more


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